Tait Finds Art In Analytics
Greatest Challenge: Addressing the company's lack of sound, automated processes when it came to total compensation analysis and global salary administration.
Greatest Achievement: Creating both a compensation-analysis tool and an automated tool for salary administration in a short amount of time.
This article accompanies Reinventing Core HR.
By Michael J. O'Brien
Armed with a master's degree in accounting, Emily Tait's up-close relationship with numbers helps bring a big-picture perspective to global compensation at Gardner Denver.
Despite a background in accounting and compensation deep enough to fill a resume nearly three times over, it was a simple "Help Wanted" ad in a local newspaper that guided Emily Tait to a new career path as well as a spot on this year's HR's Rising Stars list.
The year was 2009, and Tait had spent the previous four years working in Chicago for Accenture, where she had started as a client-financial-management analyst after graduating with a master of accountancy degree from Western Illinois University in 2005. (She received a bachelor of business degree in accounting from the same university the year before.)
Within 20 months at Accenture, Tait quickly moved up the ranks to the position of client-financial-management specialist, where she was responsible for -- among other things -- providing financial advice to senior executives at several key clients and preparing cost estimates and pricing for new contracted work. She also managed five onshore analysts and two offshore analysts stationed in India.
Despite her quick rise through the consultancy's ranks, Tait was looking for a change, both geographically and career-wise, and she discovered it when she saw a job posting in a local paper for both a global-compensation analyst and an accounting position at global manufacturer Gardner Denver in Quincy, Ill.
"It was luck," Tait says of the serendipitous search. "My husband and I wanted to move closer to the Quincy area, and we had been in Chicago for five years, so we wanted to move back to be around family."
Tait says she applied for both the accounting and the global comp analyst jobs, but quickly "discovered the global comp job was what I wanted."
"I'm analytical by nature," she says, "and finance has all those analytical pieces. But [global compensation] also has a bit of art to it as well.
"Analysis will give you an exact figure," she adds, "but it's not always the right answer. So what can your business afford and what kinds of behaviors are you trying to drive?"
Today, Tait leads the global compensation function as the senior director for global compensation for Gardner Denver's approximately 6,500 employees in 33 countries, largely because of the work she did in developing the company's first global, functional total-compensation-analysis tool, as well as the company's first automated tool for global salary administration.
"When I started at Gardner Denver," Tait says, "I noticed everything was extremely manual, with no real processes in place. So we needed to streamline and automate everything."
Along those lines, she created a tool in Excel to automate market-data analysis for all the countries in which the company does business, in order to provide a summary view of market competitiveness for each country.
"We can do market-data analysis for individual positions as well as salary structures for each country," she says. "It's a standard tool that made it really easy to do that process each year."
In 2012, Tait also co-led (with an assist from an outside consultant) the design and implementation of Gardner Denver Automated Reward Tool, the automated tool for the company's global-salary-administration process.
"Previously, we had been doing that on Excel," she says. "People were often missed and it was also a very complex process."
Creating the tool took only three to four months, Tait says, but it included "lots and lots of testing and training" to ensure proper execution.
Now, she says, everything is automated. "Managers from across the company can do their recommendations and it all rolls up automatically into the system," she says. "It worked wonderfully, and now we are working on future enhancements to the system," including incentive plans, with the ultimate goal of building a total-compensation model for the entire company.
So how has her background in accounting helped develop her overall understanding of the human resource function and its role in setting compensation?
"The biggest thing is it helps me understand that you always need to look at the big picture, mostly in the cost implications," she says. "Market competitiveness is just one piece of the puzzle, and you need to know all the other pieces as well, in terms of costs and revenues."
Tait's ability to capitalize on a cross-section of business-world experiences is certainly not lost on her manager, either.
"In today's environment, companies seek [talented individuals who] have capabilities not only in their function, but beyond that," says Gardner Denver Vice President of Human Resources Susan Gunn. "Emily's finance background, coupled with her passion for HR, will support a great career path in any company.
"Most importantly, she is well-respected by her peers, actively engaged in her community and a true pleasure with whom to work," Gunn says. "She's everything a leader would want in a rising star."
As for where her trajectory will take her in the future, Tait says she is "here to stay" in the global-compensation game, and advises other young HR professionals working in global companies to expand their ways of thinking.
"If you are working in a global organization, think global," she says. "What works in the United States doesn't always work in other parts of the world."